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Bridges you didn't know you crossed

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Glinda is good at keeping secrets. It is, after all, a way to enhance one's popularity.

(Keeping Secrets was item three on the list Glinda made for the book she was writing on How to be Popular, when she was in school. She never ended up showing the book to anyone but Elphaba, since, after all, Elphaba was the inspiration for most of the list, and when Elphaba left, Glinda lost enthusiasm for the project.) Glinda never tells a secret when she's promised not to. She's never told anyone that Elphaba bears the guilt for Nessarose's disability, even though Elphie was clearly at no fault at all.

However, Glinda is also very good at sticking to the letter of a promise and not the spirit, especially when she thinks the promise is a bit, well, silly. Like the promise she made to Elphaba, not to tell people the truth of who the Wicked Witch of the West was and what she'd done. She promised, because she loved Elphie and because there wasn't enough time to do anything else, but in retrospect, Glinda thinks, she should have pressed harder against it. Elphaba should have known: Glinda knows far more than Elphaba ever will about how to retain popularity.

But Elphie is dead now, and Glinda is far too busy to think harder about her promise for several years, what with governing Oz, which turns out to be a task requiring a lot more hard work than she had anticipated, and requiring Glinda to know a lot more about tariffs and diplomatic relations than she had ever wanted to know. (It almost makes her feel some sympathy for the Wizard, but whenever she does, she thinks about Elphie's face as she talks about how she's to blame for Nessarose's legs.) Her Minister, Sir Chuffrey, is very helpful in many of these tasks, and one day she realizes they're spending so much time together they might as well get married, and so they do.

It's not the happy ending she'd thought she was going to get with Fiyero, but it has its own charm, she decides. Chuffrey is not incredibly handsome (like Fiyero) or charismatic (like Fiyero), but they work well together. It is enough, even if she regrets what might have been with Fiyero.

But the promise she made to Elphaba still tingles in the back of her head.

~

When the lost Princess Ozma shows up, Glinda is extremely relieved. Yes, she's enjoyed being Glinda the Good. No, she's never thought she was quite the right person for the job. And Ozma can read the magic script of the Grimmerie, as it turns out, which is a weight off Glinda's mind. It was the only thing Elphaba laid on her that she has never, ever been able to do. But now Ozma can do it, so it doesn't matter.

While she is teaching Ozma, Sir Chuffney dies of his chronic illness. Glinda's heart is not broken, but she does grieve him sincerely. He was a good man, and a good partner, and she will miss him, even if she never loved him the way he deserved to be loved.

She throws herself even more into teaching Ozma all that she must know to rule Oz. The consequence of this is that she finds herself a little aimless, some months after Chuffney's death. Ozma has started blossoming into her position and now needs Glinda far less.

She starts thinking, at odd hours, of Elphaba, and the promise Glinda made her: promise me, you won't try to clear my name.

And she thinks of a loophole. She won't try to clear her friend's name. Not directly, anyway. If she sets events in motion, and things happen that way, why, then, that's what happens.

And anyway, Elphie is dead, so she won't know that Glinda hasn't quite stuck to the spirit of the promise.

It's not hard for Glinda to find a Munchkin composer of no small talent and bitter ambition -- Shwors or Shars, his name is -- and even easier to become his patron. The man's a bore, but he can write catchy lyrics with addictive tunes. She happens to mention one day to him that she has a story that no one would ever believe, that it would be impossible to set to music. She sees his eyes kindle with a fierce light. That kind of challenge, she knows, he cannot resist.

When he looks away, Glinda smiles.

~

Around the time that Glinda first hears Elphaba's song sung around the palace, she starts having dreams of Elphaba. They are extraordinarily detailed dreams, although not much happens in them. She sees Elphaba digging up weeds in a garden, reading books, talking to animals (including one that looks a lot like Dr. Dillamond), talking to a pale-skinned boy and girl who both bear a distinct resemblance to Fiyero. They might have a slight green tint to their skin. She does not see Fiyero in the dreams; the only other humanoid figure she sees besides Elphaba and the two children is a Scarecrow.

Occasionally, in these dreams, Elphaba looks at her. "Oh, Glinda," Glinda hears her say, once. "I miss you. I always have." Another time she says, "Glinda, I wish you could come, I wish you could see all of us, but we can't let you know we're alive."

"Why not?" Glinda starts to ask, but the act of speaking wakes her up.

Elphaba is dead, she thinks. It doesn't matter what I dream, because she's dead.

But she knows it is not true.

~

Elphaba tells her about Fiyero in the dreams, sometimes: mentions that he has gone to visit Dr. Dillamond, or talks about his patient work in animal speech therapy. Glinda wonders why she doesn't see him in the dreams.

Until one night she dreams of Elphaba flying to meet the Scarecrow — she is running to him, but her feet might not always be touching the ground — and he lifts her into the air in a way Glinda recognizes, and she realizes: he is Fiyero. Or Fiyero is him, the Scarecrow.

Elphaba kisses him and looks deeply into his eyes, smiling.

Glinda knows that she would not have felt about the Scarecrow the way she felt about Fiyero, before. Perhaps it is better that he went with Elphaba.

It is the first time she has thought this.

~

 

The dreams become more vivid, so vivid that sometimes Glinda is not quite sure whether she is awake or dreaming. It seems that only one of them can speak at a time. Sometimes Glinda talks to Elphaba, telling her about Chuffney or about Ozma, while Elphaba listens silently, the dream dissolving if she opens her mouth. And in other dreams, Elphaba talks to her more and more. Glinda learns that the boy and the girl she has seen in other dreams are Elphaba and Fiyero's children, Liir and Nor; Elphaba talks about them with the same fond tone Glinda notices when she herself talks about Ozma.

One day, Elphaba says to her, "I miss you. I've always missed you. I want to see you again. I want you to know that we're still alive. I want you to see Fiyero again, to meet Liir and Nor."

In this dream, Glinda cannot speak to her friend.

But Glinda, waking, knows that it is time to go.

~

Glinda throws a big party for all her friends. All her friends except for one, of course. She spares no expense. The food is plentiful and delicious, the decorations exquisite. She is amused when the band she's hired starts playing one of Shwors' songs, looks at her, and quickly turns the piece into another, less controversial, song. She smirks slightly.

Afterwards, she says goodbye privately to Ozma. "I'm going on a long trip," she says to the girl who is like a daughter to her. "You're doing such a fantastic job that you don't need me any longer."

Ozma gives her a hug. "I always need you around, Glinda," she says, "but I understand. Follow your dream -- because happy is what happens when all your dreams come true."

At the quotation from one of Shortz's songs, Glinda blinks. And laughs, ruefully. Ozma has heard Glinda talking to Elphie in a room by herself; Ozma knows her better than, Glinda thinks, anyone but one other. Ozma knows where Glinda is going.

~

From the beginning, Glinda knows the direction to travel. She travels in style, with a coachman and a number of bags, to the borders of the Vinkus. She then, not without regret, changes out of her fashionable dress to sensible walking clothes and a pair of ridiculously ugly, but durable, walking shoes.

She walks for several days, sleeping at country inns at night, and getting up again at sunrise the next morning (and wouldn't Elphie, who was constantly having to wake her up for class, laugh at that, she thinks) to go on. At the end of the third day she passes a farmhouse that seems familiar, as if she has seen it in a dream. Wonderingly, she walks up to the door, pushes it open.

A hand pulls it further open from the other side. A green hand.

~

"I dreamed of you," Elphaba says. "I dreamed you were -- " she giggles, and Glinda realizes with a start how much she missed hearing Elphie's laugh, which was rare to begin with -- "reading textbooks about economics, of all things. I didn't think they could be true dreams."

"You started talking to me," Glinda says wonderingly. "Even though you didn't think the dreams were true."

Elphaba says, "I didn't think you were real, but I missed you so. Fiyero, Liir, Nor, Dillamond -- oh! I'll have to take you to go visit Dillamond tomorrow -- they are my family. But still --" She breaks off, tears in her eyes. She looks away and then back. "Also, you looked lonely."

Glinda responds, shocked, "I wasn't lonely! I had Sir Chuffney, I have Ozma, who's a dear, I have so many friends..."

She adds quietly, "But there was a hole in my life, where you used to be."

"Yes." Elphaba nods. "That's how it was for me."

~

The Scarecrow bows to Glinda, bobbing his head, looking, Glinda notes with the part of her brain that will not stop thinking these thoughts, completely ridiculous. And yet, this is Fiyero, whom she loved.

She did love him. She accepts this. And she sees Elphaba embrace the Scarecrow, her eyes alight with happiness, and she knows that even though she loved him, Elphaba loved him more, she always did.

It is hard to read the Scarecrow's expressions, but she thinks that perhaps it is something he has always known as well, even before he was able to articulate it to either of them.

~

"Why didn't you tell me?" Glinda asks.

Elphaba says nothing. The Scarecrow -- Fiyero -- says, "I told her not to."

"Did you think I was going to go all Wicked Witch on you?" Glinda demands. "Turn you in to the witch hunters? You know I wouldn't have done that, Elphie. You knew that."

"I didn't--" Elphaba starts, and then stops. "I did," she says. "I did know. I should have fought Fiyero. I should have convinced him. I -- It was wrong, what I did." And Glinda sees that Elphaba is not quite the same person she was before. Once, Elphaba would have insisted she was right. Once, they would have fought about this.

"I can see why you did what you did," Glinda concedes. She is not quite the same person she was, either.

"And I did send you word, eventually," Elphaba says, smiling at Glinda. "And in a perfectly safe way, too."

Glinda makes a face at her. "Does it count, though, if you didn't know you were doing it?"

Elphaba gives her the grin that always transformed her face into something beautiful. "Talking of things you knew you were doing... we've been hearing a song, here," Elphaba says. "'I'm flying high, defying gravity,'" she sings softly. "You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

Glinda smiles. "I never said anything publicly, officially. I promised you I wouldn't. But you could come back to Oz now, if you wanted," she says. "I'm not saying you need to. But you, or Liir, or Nor, or -- or Fiyero. If they wanted to see Oz -- you're a bit of an underground hero, now. Ozma could lift the charges against you, and no one would harm you. People would shake your hands in the street. You could all go together."

"With you?" Elphaba asks.

Glinda takes her hands. Her smile gets larger. "Come with me to the Emerald City," she says.